Casper makes transition to defense with good results

Thursday, October 5, 2006

The former fullback is Southeast's leading tackler this season.

Adam Casper came to Southeast Missouri State as a bruising fullback who envisioned doling out plenty of punishment both as a runner and lead blocker.

Casper has indeed been able to inflict his share of punishment on the opposition for the Redhawks -- only on the other side of the football.

Casper, a junior from Anna, Ill., is Southeast's leading tackler through four games, as he and fellow local product Seth Harrell from Jackson have proven to be a formidable duo at the Redhawks' two inside linebacker positions.

"I think we really work well together and it's fun to be out there playing with him, especially since we're both from around here," Casper said.

After twice earning all-state honors as a fullback at Anna-Jonesboro High School, Casper signed with Southeast, which was then coached by Tim Billings.

The only problem was -- at least as far as Casper's playing time goes -- Billings preferred a wide-open, pass-first style of offense that rarely utilized a fullback.

Casper redshirted in 2003, then played sparingly in 2004, carrying four times for eight yards, although he did score two touchdowns on short plunges.

But, itching for more game action, Casper decided to somewhat take matters into his own hands.

"I wasn't getting on the field much, so I went to the coaches and asked about changing positions," said Casper, who also played linebacker in high school. "I knew I could make an impact."

Casper began 2005 still not seeing all that much action, but as he got more comfortable with his new position, his playing time increased considerably.

In fact, Casper wound up making such an impressive transition, he started the last three games of the season and came up with 11 tackles during the finale against Tennessee Tech.

Casper finished his sophomore campaign with 42 tackles -- seventh-best on the team -- along with four tackles for loss and four passes broken up.

"I thought it went pretty well for my first year there since high school," Casper said. "I just had to get used to playing linebacker."

Continuing to prove he's a fast study, the hard-hitting Casper currently leads the 3-1 Redhawks with 33 tackles. His 3.5 tackles for loss rank second on the squad.

"I'm feeling a lot more comfortable this year," said Casper, a rugged 6-foot-1, 230-pounder. "Every game I feel like I'm getting better. That's what I try to do."

At Austin Peay in the season opener, Casper had quite a performance as the Redhawks handed first-year coach Tony Samuel his inaugural win at Southeast.

Casper made the first interception of his college career and later recovered his first fumble, returning it 16 yards for a touchdown and his first score as a defensive player. He had a team-high 7.5 tackles, including two tackles for loss.

"That was a good way to start the season, mainly because we won," he said.

Samuel is somewhat guarded with his praise for Casper. The coach appears to see so much potential in Casper that he's trying his best to bring it out of him.

"If he plays hard all the time, he's a great player," Samuel said. "He can be really, really good. He's very talented. He's tough, he's strong, he's smart.

"The biggest thing, he has to stay revved up all the time. If he can just be consistent all the time. ..."

Casper, a Southeast Scholar Athlete, agrees with Samuel. He said he's doing his best to attain the consistency the coach is seeking.

"I know I still have a lot to work on and I'm just trying to improve every game," he said.

Noteworthy

* Tailback Tim Holloman, Southeast's leading rusher who missed the last game with an ankle injury, returned to practice this week and should play Saturday at defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Eastern Illinois.

* All-American David Simonhoff, the nation's leading punter who suffered a strained calf late during Saturday's 19-14 win over Samford -- although he continued punting -- said he should be ready to go against Eastern Illinois.

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